Will My Dog Remember Me? (And For How Long?)

will my dog remember me
How long will my dog remember me?

Is Dog’s Memory long-lasting?

Have you ever looked at your dog and wondered what is going on inside their heads? A very common question we have for our dogs is whether their memory works like ours. 

It is essential to mention that there are two main kinds of memory. These are Semantic and Episodic memory. Dogs are known to mainly have semantic memory, but they also show signs of episodic memory.

There is still research on whether episodic memory actually exists for dogs.

Semantic memory has to do with the memories they have created within a passage of years. The training they might have had, their owners, and their playdates.

On the other hand, their Episodic memory consists of memories such as mimicking behavior that its owner once approved. Another example is showing you where an object is because they saw it 5 minutes ago.

Nevertheless, if they actually have episodic memory, it doesn’t function as it functions for humans. Dogs cannot perceive the past and future, as they are utterly focused on the present moment.

Dogs can remember things for significant periods of life. Although, they usually revoke memories in times that are of benefit. To explain, this means that they can choose the memories they want to remember. For instance, they will remember you leaving for a trip and coming back after some months.

On the contrary, they might not recognize one of your friends they have seen once or twice.

puppy at the vet

Associative Memory

The strongest kind of memory for dogs is associative memory. Short term and Long term memory fall under the umbrella of associative memory for dogs. When dogs associate specific places when you take them for a walk, these memories imprint on their minds and last very long.

Hence, when they can make associations between places, people, and things, the memories they create are powerful.

Associative memory resembles episodic memory as well. Positive reinforcements are linked with good behaviors, and negative reinforcements are connected with negative attitudes.

Associative memory also helps dogs remember their favorite treats or walks. For example, when given their favorite treat, they know it is time for their walk.

In addition, it is more possible for them to remember “important” events. Hence, their long term memory is enhanced. Short term memory is not really their strong “trait.”

Imprints over memories

It is vastly supported that dogs don’t actually have memories as we have. They can’t remember images and faces, but they develop imprints of certain occurrences.

For example, suppose a squirrel runs past them and startles them. In that case, an imprint of fear will be created and associated with squirrels. Thus, every time they see a squirrel, they will be afraid of it.

puppy growls when picked up

Natural Rhythms vs. Memory

More often than not, we mistake the natural rhythms of dogs with their memory abilities. In particular, they do not actually remember every day at 9 o’clock that they have to eat. It is their natural rhythm to eat every day at 9.

Spatial Memory 

Dogs can remember the areas they spend most of their time. Hence, they can notice any kind of change in these areas. They can memorize all parts of these areas. Nevertheless, their motions are what really helps them. More specifically, their walking patterns inside the house help them remember their home for a long time, if not forever.

Procedural Memory

Both humans and dogs have procedural memory. It is the kind of memory we use to fulfill tasks daily (how to make coffee, lock the main door). Dogs have this kind of memory too.

Because of their procedural memory, we can train them. They associate treats with their correct responses to training instructions. Hence, by combining associative; procedural memory, they can be trained.

Olfactory Memory

The smell memory of dogs is one of their most vital traits. Although their smelling ability is better than the human one, dogs can pick up scents even if they haven’t been created at that specific moment. They can smell odors for an extended period after they have been exposed to an odor for the first time.

Dogs also have a specific organ called Jacobson’s organ, which helps them taste and smell simultaneously. Dogs are primarily using their remarkable ability to smell to communicate efficiently. It comes as no surprise that most of the cases when dogs respond to our orders involve food.

The scent of the food is really intense for them and, therefore, triggers them to behave correctly to “access” that smell again. Most of their favorite moments include vivid smells too.

Dogs’ olfactory memory is so good that they can recognize dogs or people they haven’t seen in years. When getting in touch with another dog or human, they pick up their scent, and they never forget it.

Dr. Bruce Kornreich (associate director, Cornell Feline Health Center, Ithaca, New York) supports that  “ dogs’ short-term memory is anywhere between 5 and 30 seconds and long-term memory can remain almost indefinitely. (petmd)”  It is also a fact that a dog’s ability to pick up different smells is directly associated with the dog’s memory span. 

older dog attacking new puppy

Create Happy Memories for Your Dog

First of all, make sure to understand your dog and what makes it happy. Every dog has different plausible habits and tastes. I will provide a list of some suggested ways to create memorable moments for your dog and for you.

Teach them tricks to create happy memories

When spending time with your dog, make sure to teach it at least one trick. During your playful time, the dog will associate this trick by making you happy and seeing you being playful. Therefore, the trick will be imprinted on its memory as a joyous moment with you (the owner).

Walk with your dog to bond closely

Besides your ordinary walks with your dog around the neighborhood, try taking your dog to different places and walk with it. Try going to forests or expansive parks where the dog can run as well. Seeing other sites will make an impression on the dog and will definitely be a memory.

Play daily with your puppy to make it remember you

When you are playing with your dog, you are showing your fun part to the dog, and it feels like it is the one provoking these reactions out of you. Hence, when entertaining each other, you create a better bond with them.

Try playing fetch with a frisbee, letting the dog bite a rope, and then moving it around with it following the rope. Try slightly to anger the dog to chase and “capture” you. (don’t let the dog bite you too much, though). There are many activities to try!

Have a deep and meaningful chat with your puppy

Often when a person who has a dog is going through a difficult time and feels upset or sad or angry, the dog senses that. Many dogs will approach you to comfort you.

You should let the dog do that. It will try to hug you, kiss you, and sit on your lap. I assure you, it works! If you reward it with a smile, you will make the dog feeling very happy to have lifted up your spirits.

mini labradoodle puppy trained to leave food
Good boy Max! A miniature Labradoodle puppy.

Share Special Events With Your Dog

Make sure to show your dog your joy when getting a promotion or getting engaged. They can feel your excitement, and they automatically experience it as their joy. Also, take your dog with you during Christmas time to your family dinner.

Christmas time always appeals to them because of the Christmas tree, the fairy lights, the abundance of food, and of course, the unlimited amount of Christmas decorations they can chew on!

Travel “doggo” buddies – Create memories on the road!

Planning to go on a trip? What is a better company than your dog? Take them with you and give them a fantastic experience of getting on an airplane or a boat.

Another great way to bond with your dog is to take them on a trip to the beach!

Will My Dog Remember Me Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, dogs’ memory is crucial for them and for humans too. Although all the kinds of memory function as one of the most basic ways to communicate with other dogs and humans, their memories are beneficial since they enable humans to train and instruct them.

The most important of all is that dogs can remember their owners and not only, if not forever, for long periods.

Humans are still doing research on how dogs’ memory works. We can be optimistic and hope that we will have a clearer perspective on how dogs actually use their memories to the fullest in the future.

Their memory is also a key factor for establishing a good relationship with your dogs and building a loving and essential bond that they will never forget.